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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Thursday, November 12, 2015 7:44 PM
Buoys: Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Buoy Forecast:
Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Pacific Links:  Atmospheric Models - Buoy Data - Current Weather - Wave Models
Forecast Archives: Enter Here
A chronology of recent Mavericks Underground forecasts. Once you enter, just click on the HTML file forecast you want to review (e.g. 073199.html equals July 31, 1999). To view the maps that correspond to that forecast date, select the html file labeled 073199 maps.html
3.7 - California & 2.0 - Hawaii
Using the 'Winter' Scale
(See Swell Category Table link at bottom of page)
Probability for presence of largest swells in near-shore waters of NCal, SCal or Hawaii.    

Issued for Week of Monday 11/8 thru Sun 11/14

Swell Potential Rating Categories
5 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Significant swell
4 = Good probability for 1-2 days of Significant swell
3 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Intermediate/Advanced swell
2 = Good probability for  1-2 days of
Intermediate/Advanced swell
1 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Impulse or Windswell
0 = Low probability for 1-2 days of Impulse or Windswell   

Storm Tracks Through North Gulf
Inactive Phase of the MJO Continues

Swell Classification Guidelines

Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
- Head high or better.
Advanced: Winter - Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Summer - Chest to head high.
Intermediate/Utility Class: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft).
- Waist to chest high.
Impulse/Windswell: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
- up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.

Surf Heights for Hawaii should be consider 'Hawaiian Scale' if period exceeds 14 secs.


On Thursday, November 12, 2015 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 6.0 ft @ 9.9 secs with swell 4.0 ft @ 8.8 secs from 39 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.3 ft @ 17.0 secs with swell 1.3 ft @ 16.8 secs. Wind southeast 2-4 kts. Water temperature 64.6 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.1 ft @ 10.4 secs from 259 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.4 ft @ 19.4 secs from 194 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.2 ft @ 17.9 secs from 205 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 5.8 ft @ 13.7 secs with swell 3.1 ft @ 13.0 secs from 296 degrees. Wind north 10 kts. Water temp 58.8 degs.


    Buoy 46059
    Pt Reyes buoy 029 scheduled for reactivation.  
    Hi-res Buoys New!

Current Conditions
On Thursday (11/12) in North and Central CA north angled Gulf swell was producing waves in the chest to shoulder high range with offshore winds and clean conditions. Down in Santa Cruz surf was flat and clean and swamped by tide. In Southern California up north surf was waist high at the best spots and clean and lined up. Down south waves were waist high with some chest high peaks and clean but nothing special. Hawaii's North Shore was maybe waist high and unorganized and chopped with northeast trades in control. The South Shore was getting leftover New Zealand swell with set waves waist to maybe chest high and clean. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated northeasterly windswell with waves 2-3 ft overhead and chopped by trades.  

See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.

Meteorological Overview
For the North Pacific a gale small storm was tracking through the Northern Gulf having produced up to 41 ft seas targeting mainly British Columbia. Sideband swell is radiating south. Otherwise one last small southern hemi swell originating from a gale previously under New Zealand was fading in Hawaii and starting to hit the US West Coast. 

Looking at the forecast charts a small gale might develop off the Pacific Northwest on Mon (11/16) generating 23 ft seas.  But after that a rather confused pattern is to take hold with high pressure locking down the area west of the US West Coast and also the Western Gulf a week out. The Inactive Phase of the MJO continues holding a controlling interest in the storm track right now.  

Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours

North Pacific

On Thurs AM (11/12) the jet was mostly consolidated but di.cgiaced north, tracking east-northeast off Northern Japan with one pocket of winds to 140 kts there then pushing just south of the Aleutians with another pocket at 140 kt winds over the Western Gulf, then pushing into British Columbia. The Western Gulf wind pocket was supporting formation of a trough in the Northern Gulf offering support for gale development there. Otherwise no troughs were indicated.  Over the next 72 hours the trough in the Gulf is to actually build south some late Fri (11/13) with a sliver of 170 kt winds falling into it and building into Sat AM (11/14) offering good support for gale development while falling southeast. By Sun AM (11/15) that trough is to be pushing directly into Central CA with the core of the trough over Monterey Bay offering the prospects of weather, but no longer support gale formation. Beyond 72 hours a strong ridge is to start building in the the Gulf on Mon (11/16) only supporting high pressure at lower levels of the atmosphere. And to the west the jet is to be very diffuse and mostly .cgiit with the strongest winds only 80 kts and tracking through the Bering Sea.  By Tuesday (11/17) the jet is to .cgiit just west of the dateline and then .cgiit again just northeast of Hawaii, resulting in a very weak and fragmented flow with no troughs indicated and offering no support for gale development.  

Surface Analysis
On Thurs AM (11/12) swell from a storm in the Northern Gulf of Alaska was starting to migrate southeast (see Gulf Storm below) and the storm itself was still in.cgiay in the Northern Gulf. . Otherwise high pressure at 1032 mbs was just off the California Coast and controlling the area from Japan to east to California aligned on the 35N latitude line. No real swell producing weather systems were elsewhere in the North Pacific with the storm track mostly going through the Bering Sea then east into the Northern Gulf. 

Over the next 72 hours residual fetch is to continue in the Gulf but steadily fading, down to barely 30 kts on Sun AM (11/15) and sea fading from 19 ft.   

Also a low pressure system is to be developing off Japan on Sat (11/14) tracking east with strong high pressure building northwest of it setting up a gradient and generating  45 kt north-northeast winds aimed at open ocean with seas to 30 ft at 37N 175E Sun AM (11/15) but not targeting our forecast area.   By Monday PM (11/16) the fetch is to be at 35-40 kts positioned 1800 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii generating 27 ft seas at 36N 173W with potential sideband energy targeting the Islands.  Fetch is to fade from barely 35 kts Tues AM (11/17) with seas fading from 25 ft at 35N 168W. 30-35 kt north fetch is to hold north of Hawaii  into Wed AM (11/18) with 20 ft seas at 36N 160W then dissipating. Perhaps some decent sized 13-15 sec period swell to result if all goes as forecast. .    

Gulf Storm
A gale 
developed over the North Dateline region Tues PM (11/10) generating 45 kt winds but all landlocked in the Bering Sea and over or north of the Central Aleutians. That gale tracked quickly east. By Wed AM (11/11) it was producing 55 kt northwest winds but again trapped mostly in the Bering Sea over the Eastern Aleutians, but with 50 kt west fetch starting to get a toe into the Gulf just south of the Aleutians. 30 ft seas were building over a tiny area at 52N 166W (311 degs NCal). By Wed PM 50 kt west winds were moving cleanly in the the Northern Gulf just south of the Eastern Aleutians with seas on the increase quickly to 41 ft at 53N 157W (312 degs NCal). On Thurs AM (11/12) a solid area of 45 kt west fetch was cleanly positioned in the Gulf tracking east and targeting British Columbia with 39 ft seas at 53.5N 148W (319 degs NCal and well east of any track to Hawaii). Fetch is to hold at 45 kts and push east in the evening off the North Canadian coast with seas holding at 39 ft at 55N 142W and outside the CA swell window, targeting only Oregon northward. This system is to be moving into North Canada Fri AM (11/13).  

Based on current data this is to be mainly a swell producer for the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia with sideband swell working it's way down into Central CA. 

North CA:  Rough data suggests swell arrival Sat (11/14) at 1 AM with period 20 secs and size building fast.  Swell to peak at 6 AM at 7.5 ft @ 18 secs (13.5 ft faces) but well shadowed in the SF Bay Area with size maybe 10 ft on the face and inconsistent. Size mostly holding with swell 7 ft @ 16 secs (11 ft unshadowed - 8.5 ft faces shadowed) at sunset.  Swell Direction: 315-317 degrees    

  North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height


Tropical Update
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (11/12) high pressure was off California generating north winds at 15 kts and mostly over outer waters, with a light offshore flow nearshore early. More of the same is forecast Friday as low pressure moves south and over the Pacific late. A very light flow is forecast for North and Central CA Saturday (11/14) with high pressure building offshore and a front pushing into North CA late. Rain for North CA starting Sat PM working it's way to the SF Bay area overnight and down to Morro Bay Sunday AM then fading over Pt Conception with brisk north winds building behind it over North and most of Central CA, then those winds moving into Southern CA late. 
Modest snow for Tahoe starting Sun AM fading in the evening. Brisk north winds 15-20 kts are forecast for North and Central CA on Monday AM. On Tuesday high pressure is to be ridging into North CA with a light winds flow there and north winds continuing at 15 kts for Pt Conception.  The high is to retrograde west with north winds for outer waters of Central CA up into North CA on Wednesday and Thursday (11/19).       

South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
On Thurs AM (11/12) small southern hemi swell from a gale under New Zealand on Mon (11/2) was fading in Hawaii and hitting California (see Second New Zealand Gale below). Also perhaps small swell from a gale in the Southeast Pacific on Tues (11/10) was tracking towards Southern CA (see Southeast Pacific Gale below).   

Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast. 

Second New Zealand Gale
A gale formed south of New Zealand on Sun PM (11/1) generating 45 kt west winds over a small area with seas building to 35 ft at 59S 167E. On Mon AM (11/2) 40 kt west winds held while easing east with seas fading from 32 ft at 58S 175E. Fetch was fading in coverage from 40 kts in the evening with seas 32 ft at 57S 177W. Winds were down to 35 kts over a broad area Tues AM (11/3) with seas fading from 31 ft at 56S 173W aimed mainly east. No additional fetch of interest is forecast.

Limited sideband swell is possible for Hawaii with more direct but still not great size for Southern CA.

SCal: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (11/12) at 1.5 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 205 degrees

Southeast Pacific Gale
A gale developed in the Southeast Pacific Tues AM (11/10) generating 45 kt west winds building to 60 kt over a tiny area in the evening with seas building to 39 ft at 57S 126W. Fetch was fading while tracking fast east Wed AM (11/11) from 45 kts over a small area with seas fading from 39 ft at 55S 114W and east of the Southern CA swell window. This system faded fast from there. Perhaps small sideband swell is radiating north towards Southern CA, though most energy is to be targeting Chile.

Southern CA:  Expect whatever swell to arrive appearing on Fri AM (11/20) with period 17 secs.


South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height




Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hours low pressure is to start building in the Gulf of Alaska on Sun PM (11/15) producing 40 kt west winds over a small area and starting to get traction on the ocean. By Mon AM (11/16) it is to be producing 40 kt west winds over a small area with seas building from 22 ft at 48N 143W.  In the evening 30-35 kt west winds to be impacting British Columbia and extending well into the Gulf producing seas to 22 ft at 47N 133W targeting the Pacific Northwest but outside/north of the Central CA swell window.  Certainly some thing to monitor. 

Beyond more weather appears forecast for the Northern Gulf, but no details are believable yet.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  

More details to follow...


Warm Water from Kelvin Wave #3 Still Pulsing in Nino3.4
Inactive MJO Phase Continues - El Nino Eventual Demise Is Developing

The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the.cgianet, though most noticeable in the Pacific. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. Prolonged and consecutive Active MJO Phases help support the formation of El Nino. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to .cgiit resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).E.cgianation of data layout below: Major sections are organized in cause-and-effect sequence starting with wind conditions/forecasts for the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA - equatorial West Pacific) followed by subsurface ocean temperature conditions (i.e. monitoring for Kelvin Waves), then ocean surface temperature conditions (i.e Nino 1.2 and 3.4) followed by atmospheric co.cgiing analysis. The 1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data and is typically updated with each new forecast. The 2nd paragraph, where present, provides analysis and context and is updated as required.

Overview: A strong El Nino is developing. It began its lifecycle in late 2013 as a primer WWB and Kelvin Wave developed. Then in early 2014 a historically strong push by the Active Phase of the MJO resulted in a large Kelvin Wave, and anomalies continued in the Spring into early Summer transporting more warm water eastward. But the cycle faltered in July due to a protracted bout of the Inactive Phase of the MJO which enabled the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle to manifest driving cooler water east, muting warm water buildup along the Ecuador coast. Still the warm water pipe remained open, but surface temperatures near the Galapagos never recovered and any atmospheric momentum was lost. Then in early 2015, another historically strong push from the MJO occurred, effectively a repeat of the early 2014 event, invigorating the warm water transport process and, adding more heat to an already anomalously warm surface pool off Ecuador. That pool has been building steadily in spurts ever since. The paragraphs below describe the current status of various El Nino indicators, followed by a few paragraphs that tie all the pieces together and provide our analysis of what is to come.      

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis from TAO Buoys: As of Thurs (11/12) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated calm to light west  winds were back on the equator in the Kevin Wave generation Area (KWGA). Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, calm winds were over the bulk of the KWGA with one small area of 13 kts west winds at 170E (see New! East Kelvin Wave Generation Area Wind Model here). Anomalies were modest from the west from 160E building over the dateline then fading at 155W. Nice anomalies in a normal year, but weak compared to what has been normal for the past 6 months. Previously strong WWB #3 associated with a robust Active Phase of the MJO (historically strong) occurred 6/24-7/17 and was followed by solid west anomalies for a 29 day window (7/19-8/19), or nearly 2 months of west anomalies or stronger. Then starting 9/2, strong west anomalies redeveloped with patches of westerly winds embedded holding to 9/17, then intensified again on 10/1 creating WWB #4 holding to 10/18 and was comparable to the previous one in late June-early July, but lasting 6 weeks instead of 8.  
1 Week Forecast: The CFS model indicates light west anomalies are forecast in the KWGA between 165E and east of there to the Galapagos for the next week through Thurs (11/19). Actual winds per the GFS model are to be calm over the bulk of entire KWGA but west winds remain projected holding near 170E in the heart of the KWGA at 10-13 kts through Sun (11/15). Light winds to continue after that into Thurs (11/19). No east anomalies have occurred this year in the KWGA, not one day, and none of real interest are forecast. The thought is the anomalies are continuing to push warm water from the West Pacific to depth and those waters are to migrate into the semi permanent reservoir already present west of the Galapagos. But the volume and velocity of that warm water migration faded significantly at the end of WWB #4 on 10/19, through west anomalies continue to 10/30 mainly in the vicinity of the dateline. By 10/31 the Inactive Phase of the MJO appeared. The Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle will likely result as Kelvin Wave #4 terminates its eventual eruption in the vicinity of the Galapagos starting 2.5 months later or near 1/15/16.       

A huge WWB occurred in March followed by a second smaller one (9 day duration) in early May with weaker but still solid west anomalies continuing after that through 6/10. Anomalies faded to neutral for 8 days through 6/18 as the Inactive Phase of the MJO interfered with the pattern (the first such event of the year), then weak westerlies started again on 6/18. A significant WWB (#3), the strongest of the year, started on 6/26 peaking near 7/4 then held nicely through 7/17 (22 days), the result of a historically strong Active Phase of the MJO which produced a strong and large Kelvin Wave #3, the third this year and the strongest by far. Moderate westerly anomalies redeveloped 7/29 when a Rossby Wave started interacting with the building El Nino base state, enhancing the westerly flow, developing a mini-WWB at 175E through 8/5. And westerly anomalies continued through 8/19. That is nearly 2 months of non-stop anomalies if not out and out west winds (6/26-8/19). From 8/19-8/25 lesser westerly anomalies occurred and those were mainly east of the KWGA, with dead neutral anomalies in the West KWGA. West anomalies started rebuilding on 8/26 and turned to legit west winds up at 9N on 9/3 and held in some fashion up there into 9/29 while calm winds held in the KWGA proper.  And then strong west winds redeveloped in the Northeast KWGA on 10/1 and held through 10/18, resulting in a yet another defined WWB event (#4) rivaling WWB #3 in June-July. And another small WWB started further east on 10/22 through 10/30. But by 10/30 the Inactive Phase of the MJO Cycle caused neutral winds to develop in the KWGA and east anomalies reaching to 150E. West wind anomalies at the surface are the hallmark of the Active Phase of the MJO and El Nino and drive Kelvin Wave production. 

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East New!

Comparison of 2 Strong Westerly Wind Bursts (WWB)

On left the massive WWB in late June/July that created large Kelvin Wave #3. On right the current WWB that is generating Kelvin Wave #4.
Scales are a little different but notice anomalies in the July event at 12-14 m/s est (24-28 kts) and now in Oct at 13-14 m/s (26-28 kts)
(Click to Enlarge Images)

June/July WWB October WWB


Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of Thurs (11/12) an Inactive MJO signal was over the equatorial dateline region, atypical of a strong El Nino. Both the Statistic and Dynamic models depict this pattern holding for about the next 10 days (till 11/21). The Dynamic model has it retrograding with a weak version of the Active Phase trying to set up in the KWGA 15 days out. The Statistic model has it fading and easing east with a solid Active MJO Pattern over the Central Indian Ocean moving into the West Pacific 15 days out. A change is afoot, but the exact details are not discernible yet. But the thought is that the seeds for the demise of El Nino are being sown. Given the time of year, this is about right, but one would expect west anomalies to start easing east and holding velocity rather than dying outright.    
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): Both models indicate some form of 'MJO-like' active signal starting to fade in the West Indian Ocean. A rapid collapse is to start making no eastward progress over the next 2 weeks, generally consistent with the OLR models above.
40 Day Upper Level Model: This model depicts a very weak signal with no change forecast for the next 40 days.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): An Inactive MJO is in control over the dateline region and is to track east through 11/27, consistent with the models above. West anomalies have peaked in weakness and are to start rebuilding in the next 4 days.  A Rossby Wave is starting to pass through this region now and is to continue into 12/7 having a slightly positive effect on west wind anomaly production. By 12/2 the Active Phase of the MJO is to start moving into the far West Pacific with the Rossby Wave holding and westerly anomalies redeveloping decently by 12/7. There's been some back and forth with the model regarding when decent force west anomalies will come to be, but the above seems to be the most reasonable solution. After that, the Active Phase of the MJO is to hold into February with west anomalies steady with one better pulse around Christmas. Given what's occurring in the KWGA area now (Inactive Phase influence) and what is forecast the next few weeks, it seems.cgiausible that a mild MJO-like influence (both Inactive and then later Active) is possible and reasonable. Still, the El Nino base state is to be the primary driver of Westerly Anomalies from here forward. No easterly anomalies are forecast. We are now supposedly in the core of the El Nino cycle (Oct-Dec). One wouldn't know it by looking at weather in the KWGA with no anomalies in.cgiay. Still the eruption of Kelvin Wave #3 is impressive and WWB #4 produced Kelvin Wave #4 (10/1-10/19 with west anomalies to 10/30) that will fuel the subsurface warm reservoir into mid-Jan. But the core of westerly anomalies are already easing east, and are to continue to do so into the early Jan timeframe, when they are expected to push to 165W and out of the the KWGA. This would shut down the warm water conveyor, with the warm pool in the east starting to decay after draining all the warm water present in what is now a massive reservoir. That is typical timing for an El Nino from a gross level perspective. A more detailed timing estimate is provided below. 

CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (11/7) Actual temperatures remain impressive but are getting confused by more sensor outages now in the East Pacific. The data is almost worthless. There are almost no active sensors left between 110W and 170W except a few at 150m. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 11/4 the reservoir is in great shape with warm water still flowing into it near the dateline and into this reservoir. This is a great scenario. Warm water also appears to continue erupting west of the Galapagos primarily at +3 degs from 160W to 100W (steady) with two +4 degs tentacles of warm water extend to the surface at 115W and 102W. 
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (11/4) Heights have upgraded again. 0-+5 cm anomalies are over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 177W (fading some). Peak anomalies at +20 cm are between 110W and 145W (steady). +15 cm anomalies extending from 100W to 155W and reaching from 5N to 5S (steady). +5 cm anomalies are pushing to Ecuador and reach the coast. +10 cm anomalies were isolated from the Galapagos westward (evidence of the westward di.cgiacement of this El Nino event). All this is indicative of a wide open pipe with a large Kelvin Wave in flight. This is a classic major El Nino setup.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (11/4) has upgraded again (daily updates to the 5 day product) indicating +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are steady between 170W and the Galapagos (easing east). +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are easing east from 163W eastward attributable to WWB #4 and the formation of Kelvin Wave #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are holding from 158W and points east. A large pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies are steady at 154W-->100W. And +2.5 deg anomalies remain present and are holding between 148W->108W beating anything in Kelvin Wave #3 (40 deg/2,400 nmile coverage). 1.5-2.0 anomalies are no longer pushing into Ecuador (only 1.0-1.5 degs anomalies). The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4 is underway in the west while di.cgiacement to the west is preventing extreme heating between the Galapagos and Ecuador. The focus remains slightly westward di.cgiaced (but nowhere near as much as '82).  But Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle is also evident in the retreat of 0.5 & 1.0 deg anomalies near 165W, the result of the Inactive Phase of the MJO cycle which started 11/1.  

A strong Kelvin Wave impacted the Ecuador Coast in May-June with a second somewhat weaker one impacting it in June. The third and strongest so far is erupting, but somewhat westward di.cgiaced just west of the Galapagos and not as overtly strong as one would expect, being rather a steady bleed rather than a gully washer. In fact, a careful analysis indicates it has peaked. A previous pause in warming near Ecuador occurred starting mid August, attributable to the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle, but ended on 9/20. The subsurface configuration suggested there were 2.5+ months of warm water in the reservoir (till Dec 15) and some of that water is extremely warm (7 degs above normal). And now Kelvin Wave #4 is developing, expected to extend the life of the reservoir. The peak of Kelvin Wave #3 was forecast to occur roughly on 10/4.  We revised it a few times since then, but looking back we've determined it was correct if not a little late (more below). But another equally strong WWB occurred peaking in 10/10 resulting in Kelvin Wave #4, which should peak 2.5 months later, or near 12/25 (nice Christmas present) and advecting west a month after that into Nino3.4 on 1/25. Typical of the character of this El Nino event, it is maddeningly slow and under whelming if viewed on a daily basis. But the overall impact, is marked and historically strong. And with the current WWB/Kelvin Wave in development, a more aggressive face of this El Nino is now appearing.  

Surface Water Temps: The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Cold water in that area has a dampening effect. Regardless of what the atmospheric models and surface winds suggest, actual water temperatures are a ground-truth indicator of what is occurring in the ocean. All data is from blended infrared and microwave sensors.
Satellite Imagery
(11/12) Overall the picture remains solid but is not getting any more defined. Warmer waters are not building along the Central America Coast and are retracted slightly from the coast of Peru and Ecuador and advecting west.  The big change over the past 2-3 weeks remains a solid increase in volume/concentration of warm water flowing into the Nino3.4 area. The warm water signal covers the entire equatorial Pacific from the dateline eastward with embedded pulses of warmer water from the Galapagos west. The overall signature is the strongest of any point so far this year and of any time since mid-July 1997. Compared to '97, 2015 anomalies are warmer in the Nino3.4 region, but have less concentration and coverage in Nino1.2. Coverage south of the equator is not growing any down the Peruvian coast, and cannot complete with '97 in that regard, but is still very solid. Along the West African Coast, cool water is all but gone, being r.cgiaced by neutral temp water. This is not a worry as the same thing happened during the '97 event. Very warm water continues off the US West Coast but is not as defined as weeks past. Still very warm water extends west the whole way to Japan but unrelated to this years El Nino, attributable to the building warm phase of the PDO. Cool water is no longer building in strength and coverage over North Australia, and has lost concentration and coverage if not completely closed off. This is atypical of a strong El Nino. Warming water continues near Madagascar suggestive of a building Indian Ocean Dipole.  
Hi-res Nino1.2: Per the latest image (11/11) temps are weak and not impressive. The extent of +2.25 deg anomalies has actually improved some since 11/8 but remains just a fragmented steam between Ecuador an the Galapagos. No +4 deg anomalies are present. This suggests the Kelvin Wave eruption area is westward di.cgiaced, with occasional pockets of warmer water sneaking in, but not steadily. Warming in this area peaked on 7/14 then crashed and has been trying to rebuild ever since. Given its been nearly 4.0 months, and warming has not redeveloped to previous levels, di.cgiacement still remains the operative e.cgianation.
Galapagos Virtual Station: (11/11) Anomalies were steady between 10/2-10/22, running between +3.4-3.8 degree above normal, but then moved into the +4.0-4.3 range starting 10/23.  Today's reading was +4.18 degs, consistent with past readings. But for the most part this data is irrelevant since the main Kelvin Wave Eruption Area is focused west of the Galapagos.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (11/11): Warming is occurring between Ecuador to the Galapagos and south of there. Temps are steady elsewhere.
Hi-res NINO 3.4: 
(11/11) The latest image is improving, if that is possible, and remains very impressive. The second pulse of Kelvin Wave #3 has increased again. In the past week girth of the area continues to build an almost continuous light core of +4 degs water embedded from 100w to 160W. This is unbelievable and great news, exceeding peak coverage at any time previous (including 9/19). Temps between 160W-180W continue surging west while loosing a little girth but have pixels into the +4 deg range (beating peak levels from 9/19). This warm pool is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of Kelvin Waves #1, #2 and #3, though mostly attributable to #3. 
Hi-res Overview: (11/11) Like the low-res image, the El Nino signal is unmistakable and the strongest since 1997, and stronger than anything in the satellite age prior to that. It even beats '97 in the Nino3.4 region. The main focus continues to be the new eruptions ports that developed starting 10/28 and continue today (11/11). The intensity of warm anomalies in the eruption site west of the Galapagos is not as intense or concentrated as the peak at 9/19, but is covering far more area. There is an almost continuous string of +4 deg anomalies from 120W to 140W on the backed off view, not just individual vent ports. Other imagery depicts those running from 120W-140W unbroken, but a little weaker than 11/8. Very impressive. And this warm water is advected west. Kelvin Wave #3 peaked on 9/19 with mult.cgie pockets of +5 degs anomalies occurring. The number and intensity of those vent ports faded, but increased significantly starting 10/30 and peaked on 11/8. We can't stress enough the importance of this upgrade and the effect this will have a few weeks out as it advects west into Nino 3.4 proper. Still, we are saying Kelvin Wave #3 peaked on 9/19 (we estimated 10/4). As those waters advect west, peak warming should therefore occur in Nino3.4 one month later, or 10/19 (right now). But with the new vent ports developing 10/30, yet more warm water is tracking into Nino3.4, expected to peak near 11/24.  Looking forward to seeing the Nino3.4 monthly data for November when it posts.  


Historical Comparison of Strong El Nino's
(Based on Nino3.4 Sea Surface Temp Anomalies)

Updated! Images built using 2 data sets - Monthly OISSTv.2 (left) & ERSSTv4 (right) This years data valid through October.
Left image suggests 2015 is already the third strongest El Nino in recorded history (beat only by '82 and '97). The right image suggests it's the 4th strongest.
In both images this years event is either the 2nd or 3rd strongest for this time of year, a bit of downgrade from last month when it was in the top 2.
Requisite Disclaimer - Current performance is no indication of future performance.
(Click to enlarge)

OISSTv2 data ERSSTv4 image


Kelvin Wave #3 Eruption Evolution
(click to enlarge)


Other Sources
TAO Data: +1.0 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial East Pacific, the warmest in years, advecting west from the Galapagos covering the entire area west to the dateline and beyond (expanding west to 165E). We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line on the equator to see if it's moving east. Today its off the charts but was formally at 140E (steady and well west). +1.5 deg anomalies are building to the west reaching unbroken to 178E. There is also a solid area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 178W but the failure of some buoys makes any additional analysis suspect.. A previous pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies is building from 110W-130W (Kelvin Wave #3 vent port). Overall the warm water signature is steady and moving west and impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (11/12) Temps are steady at +2.422 today. Previously temps peaked for 5 days at +2.581 near 10/8 and previously spiked at +3.0 degs on 7/3, faded, then spiked again on 7/13 at +3.0 degs and yet again at +3.0 degs on 7/22.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Temps have reach yet another new all time high of +2.780 (12z Nov 12) up from +2.704 (11/5 12Z). The previous peaks for this event were: +2.512 (10/24 06z) besting the previous record of +2.468 (10/20), up from +1.824 on 10/8, and beating the previous peak of +2.44 on 10/3. The thought is Nino 3.4 temps are about peaked out now (until Kelvin Wave #4 starts to erupt and advect west). Previously temps were up from +2.037 on 10/1 and +2.077 on 9/17. The previous all time peak for this event was +2.24 degs on 8/23 (one day). That was crushed on 10/3 at +2.44, and now bested on 10/20 at +2.4678. By any standard we are at a Strong El Nino levels. We expect these temps to continue upward for the foreseeable future.

SST Anomalies on 9/14/2015 and what is driving them from below
(Click to enlarge)

SST Image

This years event is westward di.cgiaced somewhat like the '82/83 super El Nino event, but not as strongly so. The main evidence for this is the continued eruption of Kelvin Wave #3 west of the Galapagos with weakened warming east of there.  This suggests the Walker circulation is not di.cgiaced as far east as in '97 but more like '82/83. Best analysis from upper level charts suggests it's core is at 120W. At this time we're unsure what the effects on rainfall would be. Total rainfall in San Francisco in '82/83 was 38.17" (+16.38") versus 47.22" in '97/98 (+25.43"). The long term average is 21.79". In LA in '82/83 it was 31.28" (+16.47) versus 31.01" in '97 (+16.2"). Long term average 14.81". Regardless, both events were well above average. This also suggests the core of storm production will be north of the most warming. So rather than the Eastern to Central Gulf of Alaska being the focus, it might be more in the Western Gulf. This is actually a good thing relative to California by perhaps giving resulting swells more room to groom themselves before hitting the coast. This might bode not so well for Hawaii, with large stormy conditions the result. Of course, this is just speculation at this time.  

Pacific Counter Current:  As of 11/6 the current was moderate to strong from the west and solid but all north of the equator. The current is pushing modestly west to east mostly north of the equator from 125E to 120W unbroken. There was 1 pockets of east current at 90W but tiny in coverage. Anomaly wise - modest west anomalies were spread mostly north of the equator over the West Pacific, with a strong pocket north of the equator from 165E to 150W. Others were scattered pockets of west anomalies on the equator too. There were no pocket of east anomalies indicated.  This is reasonably impressive as long as one does not compare it to '97, because if you do, there is no comparison. In '97 the current was raging east from 120E to 120W on and north of the equator with massive anomalies over the same if not larger area.    

SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 model - PDF Corrected:
 This data has been fixed.  The run on 11/12 for the Nino 3.4 region depicts peak temp occurring now at +2.65 degrees. A quick crash is to occur thereafter with temp down to +1.75 degs by Jan 1.
Uncorrected Data is steady depicting a peak to +2.7 degs about now pushing to +2.75 by Dec1, then steady if not slowly backing off falling from +2.3 degs Jan 1. That makes sense for November, but makes no account for Kelvin Wave #4 what is expected to arrive around Christmas and then advect into Nino3.4 in late Jan 2016.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Oct Plume has upgraded again, suggesting peak temps between +2.3 degs (Statistical models), +2.5 degs (Dynamic) with the CPC consensus at +2.45 occurring during Dec. The mid-July consensus was spread between +1.5-2.0 degs, the mid-Aug between +2.0-2.5 degs and the mid-Sept between +2.1-2.5 degs. See chart here - link. 

If one is to make a direct comparison of the 2015 event to '97 at this time of year based on the areal coverage of water temps, there is no comparison. '97 imagery leaves this years event in the dust. Instead, the 2015 event, though warming nicely with comparable if not stronger anomalies and areal coverage in Nino3.4 and Nino4, is weak in Nino1.2. A clear and significant downgrade occurred in the Galapagos area 8/12-8/20 the result of a pause in upwelling of warm water in that region, a break between the first and second Kelvin wave eruptions and the third poised just off Ecuador and no recovery has occurred. But Kelvin Wave #3 is having an amazing impact west of this area (9/19-11/11). If a super El Nino is defined purely by water temps in Nino3.4, then we are there.  But if the total areal coverage of warmer than normal waters is taken into account in Nino1.2, then we are below the thresholds set for both '82 and '97. 

Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):   
Daily Southern Oscillation Index (11/12): Was rising at 7.00. Of note: The 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30-31st. A peak reading so far in this 2015 event was -49.70/-46.60 on Oct 3 & 4 and then -42.20 on 10/14. 
30 Day Average: Was rising from -11.78. The peak low was recorded on 10/9 at -22.72, beating the previous peak low of -20.95 on 8/21, with the previous lowest at -20.49 on 7/18/15. This is exactly where we want to be (at -20 or lower).  
90 Day Average: Was rising at -16.70. A record low of -19.28 occurred on 10/16 and was matched on 10/20. The previous record low was -18.56 on 9/16. This is the critical threshold we've been anticipating (values -18 or lower), providing yet more evidence of strong atmospheric co.cgiing. We want to see it hold there, and that goal is looking more possible. It has been at or below -10.0 since early July and -15.0 since 9/4 and on a steady fall ever since. The 90 day SOI bottomed out at a low reading on 8/5 at -14.17, then beat it on 9/2 at -15.23, beating that on 9/16 at -18.56 and now -19.28 on 10/16. 
Trend (looking for negative SOI numbers, indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO or El Nino): The near term trend based on the daily average was indicative of a fading El Nino base state being driving by the Inactive Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a fading El Nino base state.
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): Weak low pressure was over Southeast Aust on 11/12 and forecast holding for the next 7 days. It looks like the Inactive Phase of the MJO really is having a negative impact on El Nino.       
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 11/12 weak high pressure was southeast of Tahiti and slowly moving east but forecast to hold for the next week driven by the Inactive MJO Phase. This will keep the SOI a bit higher than what it has been of late. If a Super El Nino is in development one would want to see continuous local lows near or over Tahiti. We're not seeing that.  
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a trend of SOI values moving to the positive range. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is having significant impact.        
SOI Analysis: During El Nino, the SOI functions as a measure of how well the ocean and atmosphere are co.cgied. Current numbers suggest good co.cgiing though not great, but getting better footing slowly but steadily (notice the 90 day average trend). This pattern is to only change for the better as the El Nino base state builds as we move into Fall. A consistent 90 day average of -18 is our target, indicative of a strong El Nino.
Southern Hemi Booster Index (SHBI) Analysis (which is theorized to supercharge a developing El Nino): Per the past 5 day 850 mbs anomaly charts there was no evidence of a south flow in.cgiay. Per the GFS model no real south flow is projected. It is high pressure over Southeast Australia that sets up the required southerly surface flow in the Tasman Sea. South and southeast wind anomalies have been in this region off and on for weeks now (previous run 7/29-8/10, this run 8/13-8/18), then returning consistently 9/18 through 10/25, then fading. The SHBI appears to only be slightly influencing El Nino development, but we have no hard numbers to confirm. 
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed cloud cover): (11/12) today's value is falling at +1.23, and has been trending slightly down driven by the Inactive MJO. The recent high value was +2.40 on Sat (10/17). It had been holding in the +1.95-2.20 range for weeks (thru 10/13) with only minor fluctuation. The ESPI was steady in the +2.5 range through 8/10, then began falling, to +2.42 on 8/18 and bottoming out at +1.78 on 8/26. It started rebuilding on 8/29 at +1.89 holding at +1.87 on 9/18 and up to +2.2 on 9/24 reaching +2.3 on 9/26, then down to 2.02 on 9/29. Historically the peak of the '82 El Nino was +2.2 and the '97 event +2.85. This suggests the '15 El Nino is reasonably well co.cgied with the atmosphere, more so than some of the other indices indicate. Monthly ESPI values are as follows: July 3.76, Aug 2.34, Sept 2.1, Oct 2.3. '97 had two peak values at +2.99 in Aug and +3.06 in Sept.  2015 had +3.7 in July followed by +2.33 and +2.20 in Aug and Sept and 2.3 in Oct. to complete with '97.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (Oct) The current ranking is down some, falling to +2.23 (Oct), down from it's peak of +2.53 in Sept, and from +2.37 in Aug. still this MEI value has the 2015 event as the second strongest El Nino ever for this time of year, and the third strongest ever. So we continue mid-way between the '82 and '97 events, in strong El Nino territory presumably moving towards the Super El Nino range. The top 5 events since 1950 in order are: '97, '82, '91, '86, and '72 with '97 and '82 classified as 'Super El Nino's' because they reached 3 standard deviations (SD) above normal. '91 and '86 were at about 2.2 and 2.1 respectively with '72 peaking at 1.8 SD's above the norm. We've already beat all those. Suffice it to say we are somewhere between '82 and '97 in term of of atmospheric co.cgiing per this index. Most impressive.  
North Pacific Jetstream (11/12) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. In short, the jet started the Fall transition influenced by El Nino, looking decent but not exceptional. But then the Inactive Phase of the MJO took over and has had a dampening effect and will continue to do so till the Inactive Phase is over.   

Comparing the 2015 El Nino to '82 and '97
Full Sized Chart
(Click to enlarge)

Conclusion (Updated 11/12): WWB #3 peaked on July 4, with the resulting Kelvin Wave peaking on Sept 19 west of the Galapagos, or a roughly 2.5 month travel time.  Likewise those warm waters advected into Nino3.4, peaking about one month later, or 10/19. Peak atmospheric influence should occur approximately 2 months later or 12/20. Then WWB #4 developed of near equal strength, peaking on 10/15, which resulted in formation of Kelvin Wave #4. Using the same te.cgiate, peak eruption of Kelvin Wave #4 is expected on 12/30/2015 (westward di.cgiaced), and advecting into Nino3.4 and peaking roughly 1/30/2016 with peak atmospheric influence on approx 3/30/2016. This suggests peak atmospheric perturbation will occur in the window from 12/2/2015-4/2/2016, or well di.cgiaced later in the Winter as compared to the '97/98 event, and somewhat like the '82/83 event. The Inactive Phase of the MJO took control 10/31, and is expected to usher in the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin wave Cycle starting 1/31/16. The resultant slackening of peak water temps won't reach Nino3.4 till 3/1, and won't hit the atmosphere till 5/1.  By then, the effective lifecycle of El Nino for the Winter of 2015-2016 will be over. And any westerly anomalies projected for the KWGA in the Dec-Jan 2016 timeframe will contribute nothing to Kelvin Wave production and jetstream a.cgiification just due to the time it will take for a resulting Kelvin Wave to migrate east. But those anomalies could help the atmosphere like the Active Phase of the MJO does, fueling jetstream energy. That is the primary contribution of westerly anomalies from here forward.   

In terms of comparative strength based on Nino3.4 temps, 2015 is in the same ballpark based on OISSTv2 weekly data. Based on ERSSTv4 data (a more conservative data source) '97 peaked at +2.32 degs with 4 months of +2.0 degs anomalies and '82 at +2.21 degs with 2 months temps greater than +2.0 degs. 2015 is looking to produce a +2.1 degree one month average based on very rough data today, with a huge reservoir of anomalies still venting to the surface and Kevin Wave #4 still migrating east.  

The real question is: How much (if any) cooling will occur in Nino3.4 between the downslide up of Kevin Wave #3 and the ramp-up and peak of Kelvin Wave #4? Based on current data, Kelvin Wave #3 has surprisingly reinvigorated itself in late Oct/Nov and exceeded its earlier peak in Sept. The longer it holds on, the greater the likelihood that not dip in temps will develop before Kevin Wave #4 erupts. Assuming steady state anomalies in Nino3.4 (not falling below +2.0 degs during that window), there could be 4 months of +2.0 anomalies in Nino3.4 (with higher peaks), providing a strong and long su.cgiy of energy to fuel jetstream enhancement and similar to '97 and besting '82. It's not just magnitude of the peak temps that make a difference atmospherically, but also the duration of those anomalies. The longer and stronger the anomalies, the greater the atmospheric response. At this time the expected atmospheric affects should be significant, though di.cgiaced somewhat later in the season.    

See imagery in the ENSO Powertool


External Reference Material: El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), Kelvin Wave

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